CC Sabathia’s career officially came to an end when the Yankees removed him from the ALCS roster ahead of Game Five on Friday. That sadly meant the last action of his career was walking off the field with the trainer after getting hurt in the middle of an at-bat. Hardly anybody gets a perfect storybook ending, but that was a particularly sad way for a playing career to end.
As is the case with every potential Hall of Famer, Sabathia will be remembered for the highs of his career, but that visual is difficult to escape. Just as a palate cleanser, let’s look back to arguably Sabathia’s biggest moment as a Yankee: his complete game against the Orioles in Game Five of the 2012 ALDS.
In Game One, Sabathia nearly went the distance, allowing two runs in 8.2 innings as the Yankees opened the series with a win. The next three games were all decided by one run. The Yankees took Game Three thanks to Raul Ibanez’s famous two-homer performance. However, Baltimore won Games Two and Four to force a decisive matchup.
Sabathia got a fly out on the very first pitch of the game, which set a precedent for his early performance. He retired the first nine Oriole hitters he faced, getting through those three innings on just 37 pitches while striking out five. Through the first five innings, he allowed just one hit, a single, and a walk.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees took a lead. Mark Teixeira led off the frame with a single and moved to second on—I swear this is true—a stolen base. He got a really good jump and it was still a fairly close play, because he runs like Mark Teixeira. Ibanez continued his heroics with the series with a RBI single and the Yankees had the lead.
Things got slightly scary in the top of the sixth. With two outs in the inning, Game Four hero Nate McLouth hit one deep down the line in right. It got awfully close to the foul pole, but was ruled a foul ball. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter argued, and we got one of the primitive MLB replay review, where a cavalcade of umpires just disappeared down the tunnel to watch it. The call was upheld likely because it proved too inconclusive to overturn.
Sabathia eventually got McLouth to strike out to end the inning.
Over the course of the next couple innings, the Yankees picked up two more runs to give Sabathia some breathing room. Things then got quite scary in the bottom of the eighth.
The first two hitter reached before future Yankee Mark Reynolds struck out. A Lew Ford single got Baltimore on the board as David Robertson continued to get ready. After another single, the bases were loaded and the lineup flipped back around as Sabathia had to deal with McLouth again. He got him to strikeout and then induced a J.J. Hardy groundball to leave the bases loaded.
With a two-run lead and the heart of the order coming up, Joe Girardi made what probably would have been a tough decision to send Sabathia back out. There would be no more heart burn, Sabathia retired the side on 10 pitches to send the Yankees to the ALCS. He threw a complete game allowing just one run on four hits and two walks. He struck out nine, two of which came in that crucial eighth inning with runners on.
I watched that game alone in my apartment as a senior at college. It may have been a Friday night, but there was nothing else I would think of doing that night, and I knew CC wouldn’t let me down. He sure did not.
In that game, Sabathia was everything you want out of an ace. In some ways, his 2012 ALDS classic was similar to his final game. He went until he couldn’t go anymore. No matter how you remember his career, and it should be positively, don’t forget that aspect in particular.